Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke) and Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica) star in this eerie tale of a respected snake expert who masks a frightening desire to transmute a man into a king cobra. Realizing that his new lab assistant, David (Benedict), is the perfect specimen, the demented doctor begins administering injections of "immunization serum." Soon, David begins experiencing strange side effects: his skin is shedding while his body shape is changing. But before he realizes the horrible truth, the metamorphosis from human to serpent has begun. This thriller, directed by Bernard L. Kowalski (Attack of the Giant Leeches), also stars Heather Menzies (Piranha) and Reb Brown (Howling II and TV's Captain America).
The film SSSSSSS, tells the story of one, Dr. Carl Stoner. Stoner, an expert in all types of snakes, has been conducting various secret experiments at his lab, within his home, as he is aided by his daughter, Kristina. Dr, Stoner heads to the local college, and into the classroom of Dr. Ken Daniels. He has come to Daniels, as he is in need of a new young assistant, as his previous one, Tim, seems to have abruptly left. At first, Daniels, is rather hesitant, due to Stoner's rather eccentric behavior, but he eventually goes on to recommend young David Blake for the job. Blake is one who seems to get in a little trouble on campus, however, he possesses an eagerness of Stoner's work, which makes him perfect for the position. Stoner takes David back to his place, and it isn't long that the Doctor begins to administer an injection into David, which he claims is to make the student immune to snake venom. Over time, as David Blake continues to work on sight at the Doctor's home, Stoner continues the series of routine doses. David obviously trusts the good Doctor, but can't help but to notice changes to his appearance over time. First, the peeling of skin, along with the general feeling of coldness, and then the loss of weight. David, at this point, knows that something is terribly wrong, as his entire appearance begins to alter. He begins to slowly take on the look and form of a snake. Little did David know, that this has been Stoner's plan all along. It turns out that the very experiment involving his last assistant, Tim, did not quite go as planned(however, Stoner was able to pawn the failed product of the experiment gone wrong to Kogan - the owner and operator of the town carnival - who markets him as a man-snake). But it is this time, that Stoner appears to have finally made progress in his serum, as he looks to successfully transform man, into snake.
Two years before the Production team of Richard D, Zanuck and David Brown hit it big with JAWS in 1975, they made this creature feature. One not involving sharks, but snakes. Also known as SSSNAKE, SSSSSSS, a film that isn't as litteral as JAWS, in fact, it is purely B-Movie in nature. At the heart of the film's story is a herpetologist. whom is not at all unlike a "Dr. Frankenstein" type. The character, "Dr. Carl Stoner", is a well known expert of all things snake. Despite his regular studies, he and his daughter also hold exhibits which are open to the public. Everything appears to be normal, however, when it comes to the work which Stoner is conducting in the lab, things are a little out of the ordinary. Over time, we learn just how "out there" that the doctor truly is. He has a great interest in the snakes - especially, when in comes to the King Cobra variety. But, beyond the usual fondness of snakes, Stoner has a much bigger obsession. And that obsession is, that he wishes to fully transform a human into a snake. It is something that he has worked on via a special serum, for seemingly quite some time. But up until the present point, it has not worked. He tried the serum unsuccessfully on his last assistant, "Tim McGraw"(yes, that's his name). After the fact, is when we the viewer meet Stoner, and that is when a new assistant, "David Blake" come, into the picture. He's wide-eyed and unknowing, which makes it easy for Stoner to get him to go along with everything, telling him that the serum injections are part of an immunization process. The film, for the most part, is campy, yet easy, and fun to follow. Not only are lots of real snakes used through out, the characters are interesting - and yes there is even a little love story between the daughter "Kristina" and the assistant, "David" to round things out. Most of the film is to be enjoyed as you embrace this campy nature, however, it is during the film's final act that interest sort of wains(at least, it did for me). This was when the David character begins the slow process of fully transforming. The makeup effects are admittedly cheesy - yes, even for this film, which pushes the cheese factor well over the top. For me, the last few moments were just a little too silly.
But with that said, the acting for a film of this type, is good. Everyone was likable on screen. Strother Martin is delightful as the kooky old herpetologist, whose affection for his snakes is eccentric. He does well in portraying the evil genius type. I enjoyed his performance. Co-starring along Martin, is a pre-A-TEAM, Dirk Benedict, whom was right for the role of naive young assistant. The script makes it a point to build up the "David Blake" character in a way that makes him sympathetic/likable. And like him, we do. To add emphasis to this character, exists the character of "Kristina Stoner", the Doctor's daughter. Heather Menzies is extremely adorable, and easy to like in her own right, as not only the daughter, but the love interest for David. The relationship between Kristina and David becomes the driving force behind the film close to it's final act. I really liked this element, but unfortunately as I said, eventually, it is the film's own camp that brings it down a notch.
Overall, I have to say that this off the wall Creature Feature called SSSSSSS, despite an over saturation of cheese, is still fairly enjoyable - if you know what you are getting into beforehand.
This Blu-Ray release from SCREAM FACTORY, looks and sounds as good one could expect from this title. Obviously shot on a lower budget, the film has probably never looked spotless. But here, the film looks good nonetheless.
As for special features, the disc features 2 interviews, with stars Dirk Benedict and Heather Menzies-Urich, a photo gallery, the film's radio spots, as well as the film's theatrical trailers.
Some details on these features, are as follows :
"My Reptilian Past" with Dirk Benedict (17m 39s)
In this interview, star Dirk Benedict("David Blake) details first meeting Richard Zanuck, and getting the part in SSSSSSS, and his subsequent reluctance to take the role. He goes on to explain his exprience with working with Director Bernard Kowalski, as well as co-stars Strother Martin. And Speciffically, Martin's fear of snakes. He also talks about the long hours spent for the makeup effects.
"The Herpetologist's Daughter" with Heather Menzies-Urich (15m 09s)
Actress Heather Menzies-urich("Kristina Stoner") talks about auditioning for the movie, working for Producers Zanuck and Brown, as well as Director Bernard Kowalski and Strother Martin. She also mentions having a crush on co-star Dirk Benedict on set. Also mentioned, is of course is the subject of she working with snakes. She also mentions the cult status of the film, as well as the cult status of another film, in which she appeared, PIRANHA.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
The title of this film - SSSSSSS, should tell you exactly what type of film that you're in for prior to going into it. No, it isn't JAWS, but rather something much more campy. I enjoyed this film for the most part as I knew what it was going for. At the beginning of the film, we see Kogen and Stoner loading up a strange cage into the back of a truck, unaware of what was inside, we soon learn however, that Kogen runs a carnival freak show. And that, what was in the cage becomes the marquee act in the show - A half man-half snake creature. Yes, this is that type of film. A silly plot, with a silly outcome. But, If you just go with it, it's not that bad.
Special Features include
- NEW My Reptilian Past An Interview With Actor Dirk Benedict
- NEW The Herpetologist's Daughter An Interview With Heather Menzies
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailers
- Radio Spots
This film will be released on Blu-Ray on April 26, 2016